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If you have any comments on the book, I would love to hear from you.

Shirley Walker
Phone: 604-826-2589
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About Shirley Walker

About the Book

The experiences of the Roseland family were not unique. Their story takes the reader on a ride through history viewed from the perspective of the working class, where hard work, talent and resourcefulness do not always pay economic dividends. Our immigrant ancestors who built the North America society we know today confronted problems similar to those encountered by this family. Through their words we get a more intimate glimpse of the economic, social and political world in North America during the first half of the twentieth century.

I came into possession of many letters written by the family members during their years of immigration and settlement in the United States and Canada, and also letters written by my Uncle Arnold during the Second World War. You will read comments and opinions on their observations and experiences, history as experienced by a family of immigrants.

From Sailing Ships to Spitfires would appear to fulfil the desire of travelers I met on my bus tour in Norway who stated, "I would love to learn more about history, but I don’t want to read a history book. I want to read a story."

From Sailing Ships to Spitfires

by Shirley Walker

Published by Borealis Press, Ottawa, ON
402 pages - 52 photographs - 6 maps
Published January 2006
Softcover - $19.95
Hardcover - $39.95


About the Author


Selected Bibliography


Comments on the Book

LCol (ret’d) Alex MacKinnon, RCAF 1958 - 1996

"I compliment you on an absolutely wonderful book - it is a terrific story the trials and tragedy of your family as they moved as immigrants through the USA into Canada and the West. I particularly enjoyed the saga of your Uncle Arnold Roseland in the RCAF from the Aleutians through the UK to France. What a poignant event of the town of St. Martin de Mailloc dedicating his monument.....

Again, your book is a tremendous reminder of just how resolute and strong our immigrant families had to be to deal with the tragedy and difficulties in strange worlds, and wonder if they would ever see folks at home again. Your Uncle Arnold served our country very well indeed in most difficult circumstances. Your book is certainly history told through a great story..."


The book was reviewed by Angus A. Glass in the March 2007 edition of the B.C. Genealogist

"This was a great book to read. It has all the elements of a novel....
The family story is set against the backdrop of world, United States and Canadian affairs... With some luck and great research she has produced a book that reads well and does not get bogged down in the minutiae of genealogy. Her story will probably strike a chord with many who are interested in genealogy."


"...I can’t tell you how much both my husband and I enjoyed your book!....He got interested in it when I told him about it- and let me tell you - he couldn’t put it down! .... He found it so interesting. He talked of nothing else for days...So interesting what these people went through. I enjoyed more your introduction and the fascinating adventures you had finding information. Wonderful! Congratulations on a great book!!"

Sincerely, Beverly Dey.


"One thing that sets this book apart is that it is not a fabulous success story, but a true, down to earth immigrant story that tell of the true lives and struggles of the great majority of immigrants. I can't wait to read it!"

Per Kavlie Anderson, Translator of family letters, from Old Norwegian to English. Per gave me invaluable assistance in the translation of the Norwegian letters, often discussing with me the subtleties of what family members had written, throwing more light on the story. His expert knowledge of Norwegian History and literature added greatly to our discussions.


Dr. Benita Howell, Professor Emeritus, Head of the Department of American Studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Dr. Howell provided some research assistance on Stearns and the Appalachians and asked to be informed when the book was published.

"...I thoroughly enjoyed the book, not just for the new information on Stearns. I thought you did an excellent job incorporating one family’s history into the larger currents of economic, social and political history that affected it.

I do think that the book would be useful for American Studies students to read.... your book is an especially colourful saga of repeated moves and resilience."


"I found From Sailing Ships to Spitfires to be a riveting story of turn-of-the-Century immigration to the United States...."

Tom Des Jeans, Cultural Resources Manager, National Park Service, Oneida TN. Stearns, KY, where the family lived from 1904 to 1910, has been incorporated into a National Park, in the United States.


"I can't imagine how much research you had to do to pull the story together. Mother would have been so proud to have her name in your acknowledgements and to have made a contribution...."

Forest Hagen, (son of Berit Hagen) Berit grew up on a farm nearby the Roseland's and the two families were great friends. The information she gave me was an invaluable added dimension to the story.


"Dear Shirley, I set out to read From Sailing Ships to Spitfires again over my lunches, and I have been engrossed all over again. It is such a good book.... All those things we fussed about.... work beautifully. Congratulations, that was a magnificent piece of work."

Margaret Slavin Dyment, from "Write Away!" a support service for writers, and founder of the Victoria School of Writing.


"My Dear Shirley:
Just a note to say how very much I am enjoying your book. I have been reading it now for a few weeks and I have found its contents most interesting. It brings back many fond memories of my war years in England and the continent, which I must say were some of the (?). I will read the balance of the book with a great deal of interest. Good luck to you and all the rest."

Sincerely, (Former Second World War RCAF Wing Commander) D.B. "Dal" Russel DSO, DFC and Bar.
("Dal" Russel became the first Squadron Leader of No 14(F) Squadron when it was formed after Pearl Harbour, preparing the Squadron for its service in the Battle of the Aleution Islands. He became Squadron Leader to the same Squadron in the spring of 1944, when No 14(F) became 442(F), and in July 1944 he became Wing Commander. (These are the squadrons that my uncle served in during the times when Dal was in command.)
Dal read early drafts of this story and discussed his memories of the war years with me.


The following is a review from the Trail Daily Times, by Lana Rodlie, in November 2008:

"History buffs, genealogists, writers and anyone who likes a good story will enjoy Shirley Walker's book, "From Sailing Ships to Spitfires."
....Interspersed with the heartache of eking out an existence at a time when jobs were few, food was scarce and distance from loved ones was heartbreaking obstacle, Walker painstakingly includes an accurate account of history during those periods.

She covers Norway's economic situation in the late 1800's, which created such mass emigration, then followed the family's, movements from the US to Canada as if she was riding in the back seat of their jalopy...."


"Dear Shirley:
I bought your book From Sailing Ships to Spitfires yesterday at the Midsummer Festival. It was so fascinating that once I started reading it (as soon as I got home) I could not put it down except to (eat). Thank you for all your Norwegian history you have provided, and congratulations on your hard work completing your well-written book."

Sincerely, Edith Olsen